While working on an apple farm, I have made some new friends. And not so surprisingly many were Polish. I guess what I am trying to say is that the amount of Polish people living or at least working temporarily in England is not surprising. Getting salary in Pounds is still much better than getting Zloty. If you are bringing it back with you to spend, of course. After all, that’s how I started traveling too.
Even though I live quite close to Poland, I had never visited except for excursion to Auschwitz. But let’s talk about that some other time. Sadly, I didn’t even consider Poland worth visiting. Yes, I feel really bad about this. Because every place is worth the visit. Nonetheless, my friends happened to be all connected to Kraków, lovely student city in the south of the country, and what better should I do with all the pounds I earned picking apples?
Kraków is the second biggest city of Poland, and its atmosphere is amazing, welcoming and friendly. It was even voted as the most beautiful city in Poland. And I totally agree. As I mentioned before, it is a city of students. Its centrum is not huge but still, you can find enough interesting places to visit. It’s green, full of life and culture, especially during summer. Prices are not horrible, and if you are looking for not so usual city break, Kraków is a place to go.
I would recommend staying for three days. I feel like that’s enough to see the most interesting spots but, of course, there are much more. You will have time to wander around, feel the atmosphere, try local food and even enjoy some nightlife.
Wawel Royal Castle and Wawel Cathedral
Dominant of the city, Wawel Castle, is an amazing mix of styles. It used to be home of Polish kings and queens, and not only its exteriors are worth seeing. Wawel Cathedral is the place of coronation of Polish kings and some are buried here. In its tower you can see the huge bell, it weighs 11 tons! dzwon Zygmunt – if you touch its heart you can make a wish. They still ring it on special occasions, 12 ringers are needed to make it swing and stay in the right rhythm.
Before the city was founded there was – of course – needed to kill the dragon. according to a legend, there was fierce beast terrorizing poor people, and eating virgins. Brave count Krok tricked it and gave it goat skin fill with sulfur to eat. Poor dragon exploded, and the city was named after the gallant count (the other version of the legend says that the dragon starved to death). Nonetheless, you can visit the dragon’s den, and even see a statue of a dragon Smok spitting fire.
Market Square and the Sukiennice
In the heart of the Old Town, you will find lively square Rynek Główny full of people, colors, art, caffés and restaurants. Built in the 13th century, it was the biggest square in Europe. But it is not just empty space. Just in the middle sits the Sukiennice, the world’s oldest shopping center (or they say so). Dive in to get some beautiful amber jewelry or just admire its unique architecture.
The Old Town and Royal Route
The Royal Route starts with St Florian’s Gate, and it was part of the Amber path connecting Baltic Sea and south Europe. After Mongolian invasion, the Old Town was heavily fortified with unbelievable 3m wide walls and guard towers. Most of the walls were destroyed in the 18th century. Today, you can see the ground plan on the map if you follow the park Planty, and the small part the fortification is accessible next to St Florian’s Gate. Take your time and explore around the Royal Route, do not just follow it blindly to the center. You will find many restaurants, bars, churches, and interesting architecture.
Kazimier – the Jewish Quarter
Once a separated city, Kazimier is a place to see synagogues, Jewish cemeteries, and to get a unique feel. Also, there are many small beer places selling unmatched beers.
The Schindler’s factory – Fabryka Emalia Oskara Schindlera
While in the Jewish Quarter do not forget to visit the real place from The Schindler’s list novel. Here Oscar Schindler saved 1100 Jewish workers, and you can visit the museum. Younger kids (under 14 years) should better stay out.
Borrow a bike and go through park Planty, or around Vistula river. Or just walk, and enjoy live chirp of town.
What to eat?
It is important to say that Krakow offers international cuisine. But if you want to try something locals eat, head for zapiekanki – baked baguettes with all sorts of fillings and toppings. I would say its cheap and signature food. Also, you can try barszcz – beetroot soup or pierogi -pasta filled with different fillings.
Kraków is a beautiful town with a rich history. When you get tired of all the old buildings, beautiful art and romantic corners, immerse yourself in one of many unique caffés or pubs. Try local beer, enjoy amazing ice-cream or just chill under the tree watching people carrying on with their lives. Or visit a local chocolate factory, where you can see the process of making chocolate treats and then stay in the shop above and try it for yourself.